Analysis shows that there are 500 species on the brink of extinction, as many as were lost the past hundred years
According to an analysis by scientists, the sixth mass extinction of wildlife on Earth is accelerating; they warn that it could potentially show signs of a tipping point for the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
Over 500 species of land animals were found to be on the brink of extinction and are sadly likely to be lost within the next 20 years. In comparison, the same number of species were lost over the whole of the last century. Without the human destruction of natural habitats, the scientists say that even this rate of loss would have taken thousands of years.
The Sumatran rhino, the Española giant tortoise, the Clarión wren and the harlequin frog are among those land vertebrates that are on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 individuals left. Historical data was available for 77 of the species, and the scientists discovered that these animals had lost 94% of their populations.
Prof Paul Ehrlich, of Stanford University in the US, and one of the research team has said:
“When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,”
“The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to the climate disruption to which it is linked.”
Prof Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who led the research said:
“We are facing our final opportunity to ensure that the many services nature provides us do not get irretrievably sabotaged,”
The scientific analysis that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined data from 29,400 land vertebrate species compiled by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and BirdLife International.
The researchers of this analysis identified 515 species with populations that were below 1,000 and around 50% of these had less than 250 remaining animals. These animals, made up of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, were found to live within tropical and subtropical regions.
With this analysis, scientists discovered that 388 species of land vertebrate had populations under 5,000, and the vast majority of these animals (84%) lived within the same regions as the species that have populations of under 1,000, creating the sufficient conditions to cause a domino effect.
Researchers of this study said that their findings could aid conservation efforts by highlighting the species and regions requiring the most urgent attention.
This news comes after the White-tailed eagle is making a return to England after going extinct in the 18th century.
Professor Andy Purvis, of the Natural History Museum in London, who is not part of this new analysis, has said: “This research provides another line of evidence that the biodiversity crisis is accelerating. The hardest problem [the researchers] faced is that we don’t know more about the history of species’ geographic distributions. They only had that information for 77 of the species on the brink, and we can’t know for sure how typical those species are.”
“But that doesn’t undermine the conclusion,” he said. “The biodiversity crisis is real and urgent. But – and this is the crucial point – it is not too late. To transition to a sustainable world, we need to tread more lightly on the planet. Until then, we are essentially robbing future generations of their inheritance.”